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Life lessons: Michael Caines

It’s been a turbulent year for the hospitality industry, yet Michael Caines MBE is ploughing ahead with a series of exciting new projects. We sat down with the Michelin starred chef to find out about the lessons he learnt in lockdown

What did lockdown teach you?

Something like Coronavirus is incredible humbling: it gives you time to think about what matters.

In business, I’ve learnt that you need to continue to plan and look forward: while in lockdown we built new shepherds’ huts in the grounds of Lympstone Manor and made plans for a new pool and pool house. When we saw an opportunity to advance our position, we also acquired a new business [The Harbourside Refuge in Porthleven].

In my personal life, I’ve learned how fragile life is and how something like this can come along unexpectedly and change everything. For three months we enjoyed the simple things: I realised that walking on Dartmoor and being in nature is just as enjoyable as the busy life I lived before. I truly valued the time I was able to spend with my family and it made me appreciate what I have.

What do you think the future holds for the South West food and drink industry?

If you’d asked me this before the lockdown restrictions started to tighten again in September, I’d have said that we’re in a pretty strong position. Yet, there was always a caveat: we knew there was going to be a second spike.

We’ve got to be optimistic however: with every downturn in life comes opportunity and I think if we support each other by buying locally and seasonally, we can sustain a good economic cycle of good will in our community. We also need to acknowledge that people are social beings so we should continue to focus on South West hospitality and provide quality restaurants.

Our fabric of wonderful food producers has been – and still is – under threat and, unless we see a fully recovered tourist industry, the local supply chain, farmers’ markets and food festivals simply won’t be there in the future. This winter is going to be difficult for everyone in the hospitality industry but, if we all do our best to make the measures work, we’ll hopefully come out the other side of it.

How will the 10pm curfew affect hospitality businesses?

I think it’s better that we have some curtailing of activity now so we can all survive through the winter rather than have a blanket closure. People need to understand why these measures have been brought in. Clearly there will be an impact on a number of hospitality businesses and we’ll be under pressure to ensure customers have left before 10pm. This will, in turn, encourage drinking at home and anti-social behaviour on the streets and we have already seen some of these realities playing out. I recognise this isn’t going to be an easy period going into the winter but, at the same time, it could be a lot worse.